The Curious Case of Vikram Vedha

On the surface, Vikram Vedha is a cop-drama starring two of Tamil Cinema’s most beloved performers. If you see a little beyond that, it is an adaptation of the popular “Vikramadithyan and Vedhalam” series. But the reason this film came off as a massive surprise to the audience is because of the layers of depth this film could bring in without diverting from the “commercial film” format. 

However, what I liked about Vikram Vedha was a lot more deeper. Never before had I come across a mass film of this range that spoke so beautifully about the concept of Good vs Bad. Despite deriving guilty pleasure from the Hero Vs Villain plotlines, I’d always thought there was something wrong with the portrayal of the Good and the Bad and Right and the Wrong. If the protagonist is to be shown as a hero then all his actions were usually extensively glorified to portray the point. The same goes for the Villain whose actions would be extensively demeaned to justify the fatal ending he encounters often caused by the hero (which yet again is portrayed as a glorified action).

What Vikram Vedha did was to shatter the notion of the Hero vs the Anti-Hero concept and oh so beautifully by leading the audience right into buying into the concept before destroying it for them. The story begins by glorifying Vikram, a good cop who thinks it’s his birthright to kill criminals. His justification for committing the murders is established in the line where he says “ I can sleep peacefully at night despite an encounter, knowing that I’ve killed a criminal”. Vikram is after Vedha, a dangerous gangster who is portrayed as an evil character because of the number of murders he has committed. 

As the film progresses, this line between what is good and what is evil keeps blurring through incidents happening around both these men via some crucial characters like Vikram’s Wife, Vedha’s brother, and his lover, Vikram’s colleagues, and his best friend. These incidents are further exemplified through a set of stories that Vedha narrates to Vikram. Much like the folklore, towards the end of Vedha’s story, Vikram is asked to make a choice between what is righteous and what isn’t.

This haze between the lines is mostly portrayed through Vikram’s realization of how adamant he’d been towards this very idea of Good vs Evil. Both the men are murderers ruthlessly killing other men. But it seemed justified to Vikram because he worked for the law while Vedha was an outlaw. The moment Vikram realizes that his definition of what being a criminal meant might not necessarily decide a person’s being as good or bad, he also starts understanding how a lot of his actions would easily fit into that very definition. 

Here’s the catch, right from the beginning the storytellers have placed plot points hinting the audience about human nature being shades of grey rather than mere white or black. But they only lead the audience to that realization through Vikram’s transition. 

This is beautifully done not just through the character’s psychological changes but also through the visual representation of colors and the manipulation of the audience’s mentality where they start looking at the very characters differently. Vikram who is seen wearing only White in the beginning and Vedha who is seen wearing only black end up wearing greys towards the end, literally showing what the movie has been intending to show. 

As this film celebrates it’s third anniversary, apart from appreciating it’s technical brilliance and beautifully written characters, scenes and dialogues, I couldn’t stop thinking about how this film would be even more relevant at the current period. We as a collective lot have lost the ability to look at things beyond right and wrong, as shades of grey progressing from their growth, situation, surroundings and upbringing. The world as a product of two shades is a fatal lie that we are forcing ourselves to believe. It is when the film comes to a complete circle towards the end when Vikram asks Vedha to help him decide what’s wrong and what’s right, that gets you thinking about the reality of the world and the need for us to start accepting it.

- Swetha V Pillai

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sohny September 13, 2021

oh nice review… i hadnt noticed the dress color codes as mentioned above but had to re-watch to understand the subtlety in it. yes i love this film and being fan of Vijay sethpathi , I consider this film to be his best . Having read and re-read vikram bethal stories in my childhood, I was expecting this movie to be along same lines, but the layering of different emotions and rules of what is right and what is just was perfectly embodied in this film.

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